How The Beatles Helped Michael Jackson Make $1 Billion from This Shrewd Investment
As much as Michael Jackson was a talented singer and dancer, he was also an entrepreneurial mastermind who made some profitable investments during his longstanding career. Remember The Beatles? It was the band’s Paul McCartney who set Jackson on his entrepreneurial path, and the King of Pop never looked back.
In his early 20’s, Michael had a brief stay in London, hosted by the McCartneys. One night after dinner, Paul let Michael in on a little secret – the trick to making big money in the music industry was by investing in publishing rights. The Beatles singer retrieved a book he said he would protect with his life and told Michael that it contained every song right he had bought over the past ten years. He even went on to brag that in the past year alone, he had made $40 million (roughly $96 million after adjusted for inflation) in royalty fees!
Innocent Joke? Don’t think so
Unknowingly, Paul has stirred a certain hunger in M.J., who joked that he would own Paul’s songs someday. Only that the Thriller hitmaker wasn’t kidding. The year was 1982, and Michael immediately went on a publishing rights shopping spree, investing millions into the purchases.
Come 1984, and word traveled to Michael Jackson that The Beatles’ catalog was up for grabs. One bad contract signed by the music group while they were starting out had come back to haunt them, with a string of unfortunate events bleeding their finances dry. Despite receiving offers to buy the catalog, Paul and Lennon’s widow squandered not one, but two chances of owning The Beatles’ music.
Michael immediately instructed his legal team to move heaven and earth to get the catalog for him. Naturally, The Beatles music had attracted a lot of interest, with bids going as high as $40 million. So what were Michael and his team going to do? The answer was simple; place a bid that would scare off everyone else, while also leaving the seller no other choice but to accept it. Consequently, Branca (M. J’s lawyer), put up a $47.5 million (over $106 million now) bid, and Robert Holmes, the tycoon selling the catalog, simply couldn’t turn it down.
As you can already guess, the ensuing proceedings for changing ownership of the catalog were to be long and tedious, necessitating a lot of labor and many hours of legal work. It is no surprise, therefore, that the negotiations took ten months, over a hundred lawyers, and the drawing up of eight contracts for all parties involved to reach a consensus.
Finally, A Deal
Come October 1985, and Michael Jackson owned The Beatles’ songs, just as he had promised Paul McCartney. This meant that he could now license any of their songs to any brand of his choosing. Paul and Lennon’s widow would still get 25 cents for every dollar M. J. made, but that was peanuts compared to what the pop star was raking in.
This business deal would later come to hurt Michael and Paul’s relationship when the pop star licensed Revolution to Nike, a decision that McCartney was strongly against. But Michael went ahead and did it anyway, as he had every right to do so, and despite being the artist in the song, Paul had no legal claim to it.
When Sony approached Michael with an offer to merge ATV (The Beatles publisher), the deal was too good to turn a blind eye to. Consequently, he made almost twice the amount he bought the catalog for, while also gaining a 50% stake in a mega-company. Though sadly departed, Michael Jackson still earns at least $1 billion from this deal!
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